Are your advanced control solutions still adding maximum value?

2 min read published on November 15 2022

Advanced process control (APC) solutions such as MPC (model predictive control) have the ability to unlock vast amounts of hidden value by improving process stability and continuously optimising processing plants. MPC solutions make use of models derived from the actual process to predict future process behaviour from current and past data to ensure that the process is always operating optimally. 

APC solutions optimise process KPI’s (key performance indicators) such as reducing emissions, increasing throughput, and improving conversion and typically have a payback period of 2 to 9 months. However, to ensure long-term value add and unlock the maximum return on investment, it is important to proactively manage the maintenance and monitoring of the implemented solutions. 

Why does the performance of advanced control solutions degrade 

The performance of advanced solutions may degrade over time due to the following factors: 

  • Process changes implemented in shutdowns. 
  • Changes in plant operations due to seasonal variations (hot or cold weather), planning and market considerations, or maintenance activities.  
  • Process degradation such as equipment fouling, sticky valves or poorly tuned baselayer controllers. 
  • Incorrect use of the implemented schemes.  

These factors influence the process models and active constraints used in the advanced control solutions, which may lead to poor performance and reduced benefits if proper maintenance and monitoring are not performed. 

The benefits of maintenance, monitoring and continuous improvement 

The value add of an advanced control solution under various scenarios is shown below: 

  1. The development phase of an APC project includes step testing, commissioning, training, and tuning. This phase typically takes 3- 5 months and ends when the full benefit is achieved, and the solution is running. 
  2. In the running phase, the advanced control solution runs optimally and adds full value.
  3. Full benefits are realised after the commissioning phase.
  4. Shut-downs implement process and operational changes which may impact the performance of advanced solutions.
  5. With no maintenance, the performance of advanced solutions degrades within a few months after commissioning and is eventually turned off.
  6. With only reactive maintenance and no monitoring, the controller may remain online, but the performance could degrade after shut-downs and result in reduced benefits of up to 50% compared to the original value add.
  7. Pro-active maintenance and online monitoring ensure that performance degradation is detected and rectified, thereby preserving and ensuring 100% of the original value added.
  8. Additional benefit may be unlocked by collaborating with domain experts through continuous improvement initiatives. 
What's Next? 

Knowing that your advanced solutions degrade over time is the first step. The next step is contacting an expert to: 

  • Determine the extent of degradation and perform the required maintenance. This may include training of personnel, proper tuning of PID and advanced controllers, and/or an APC revamp. 
  • Implement suitable monitoring frameworks for early detection and resolution of performance deviations.  
  • Identify and plan continuous improvement initiatives to unlock further value add. 

We are happy to advise you on any tuning and APC projects. The right tooling can help you accomplish optimized plant performance.

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